14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 13 January 2021 — The figure of 550 daily cases of Covid-19 in Cuba reported this Wednesday, the highest since the pandemic began, has forced the authorities to take more severe measures. With three more deaths registered, the death toll has reached 12 this week and the week is not over. [Cuba’s total Covid deaths as of 14 January 2021 is 300.]
As a result of the bad numbers, Havana has been pushed back to the phase designed to limit local transmission, which, among other measures, provides for the closure of schools, the paralysis of urban transport from 9 pm to 5 am and the prohibition on being in public spaces from 7 pm to 5 am.
On Wednesday night, the official Cubadebate website published the new provisions that included, among other measures, the prohibition of driving between 7 pm and 5 am, but that measure was eliminated after a few hours and in the most recent announcements they have qualified some of the new restrictions.
In addition, travelers who arrive in Cuba and who do not respect the established “hygienic-sanitary rules” could face fines of up to 2,000 Cuban pesos and a criminal process that would prevent them from leaving the country until they appear in court, according to a senior government official from Havana.
“To the traveler who violates the established rules, in addition to the fine, the charges against them could result in their travel being restricted,” said Reynier Palacios, secretary of the capital’s Government, on local television.
Palacios said that the authorities are also thinking of prohibiting all future entry into the country of those travelers who are fined for spreading the coronavirus epidemic.
Orestes Llanes Mestre, coordinator of Inspection and Control of the Government of Havana, said that fines are being considered for travelers who violate the rules. “We are proposing, it has not been approved yet but we are proposing it, that for the traveler who violates it is not 2,000 pesos but 2,000 dollars,” he explained, “because for a traveler coming up with 80 dollars is a simple thing.”
The provisions will take effect from this Thursday, according to official media, but this afternoon many schools were already sending students home. “They called me at work to pick up my son and to take home all his books. They told me it would be for four weeks but they explained the same thing the other time and we spent seven months with the children at home,” laments a mother as she stood in a long line for rationed bread. “Now to get ready: it’s the whole day with the boys at home asking for food and me having to figure something out.”
The news also makes Beatriz Torres’s hair stand on end. “Of all those cases, 121 were here in Havana, I am 72 years old, an at-risk age, I avoid going out on the street but I have to do it because otherwise I will starve,” she tells this newspaper.
On the one hand she is calm, she explains, because her grandchildren will not have to go to school, but on the other, she is scared of what is coming her way. She has been going through a “tremendous effort” for months to get food, so as soon as she woke up, she went out to the street. “I took the ration book and went to the bodega (ration store) to get everything I’m allotted,” she says. “It cost more than 300 pesos for a trip just for my and my sister’s quotas.”
As in September, when the curfew was announced, the streets of the capital are full of people in search of basic necessities, especially food.
“Wherever you go there is a tremendous crowd of people. I’m in this line to buy chicken but I’ll take anything they have,” a young woman in a long line at the Cuatro Caminos market comments to 14ymedio. “The [fixed-route] taxes are already 15 pesos and not 10, so I walked from my house over in El Cerro. In my neighborhood the only things in the stores are water and rum.”
The Cuatro Caminos market, re-opened on November 16 after years of a total refurbishment, has been one of the busiest markets in recent months because it is one of the few that remains minimally supplied.
On the corner of San Lázaro and Marina, in Centro Habana, dozens of people crowd at the counter of Store #1005. They announced ice cream for sale but customer complaints fall like rain on employees because they ran out in less than five minutes. “It cannot be that they open and immediately tell me that it is over, that is impossible, it is a lot of impudence,” a customer is outraged. “It’s always the same, they sell three tubs and close, the only thing that matters to them is themselves and their business.”
In the specialized fishmonger on Monte Street, the scene is the same: outrage and protests over the new prices, complaints about poor service and anguish at the shortage of supplies.
“The only thing I have found is this chicken mortadella but it kills me. Before it cost 40 pesos and now they are selling it for 132, it is an abuse,” protests a woman. The employee’s response: “As long as people continue to buy it, they will continue to mark it at that price. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s that the price is abusive.”
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